The Electro-Motive Story

Written by Mike Brazeau

General Motors purchased Electro-Motive Engineering Corporation in 1930. They had produced gasoline-electric rail cars that were powered by Winton engines. GM also purchased Winton Engine Company earlier that year. By the 1930’s, there was a need for more powerful engines and Charles Kettering with the General Motors Research Laboratories met the demand with a lightweight 8 cylinder two-cycle Diesel engine. The first two prototypes of these 201 Series engines were used to power the Chevrolet assembly lines of the General Motors exhibit at the Chicago Century of Progress expo in 1933. This engine also powered Burlington’s Pioneer Zephyr. Its success resulted in the building of 600 hp switching locomotives for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in 1936 at the newly built LaGrange, Illinois plant.

FT103 Demonstrator

In 1938 the 567 Series Diesel engine was introduced in the first road freight Diesel locomotive FT103 demonstrator and tested on an 83,764 mile, 11-month run. The success of this test showed the reliability and economics of the Diesel engine by proving it could do twice the work of a steam engine at half the cost.

In 1941, the merging of the Electro-Motive Engineering Corp. and the Winton Engine Co. formed the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors. In 1942, EMD stopped manufacturing locomotives and began producing the 567 Series marine Diesel engine to aid the war effort. By 1978 it had produced 5,000 marine Diesel engine.

EMD continued to offer demonstrator Diesel units, free of charge to potential customers. Locomotives could also be rented or bought on credit through General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), which was an attractive offer to financially troubled railroads. These practices resulted in the order for steam locomotives to go from 83 in 1945 to zero in 1946. The Dieselization of the United States was well on its way.

After WWII the F3 units were introduced, followed by the GP7 in 1949. By 1951 EMD had delivered its 10,000 th locomotive, an E8 passenger unit, to the Wabash Railroad and built its 15,000th unit by 1954.

In 1962, EMD had produced its 25,000th locomotive, making it the worlds leading manufacturer of Diesel locomotives. In 1965, the second-generation 40 Series locomotive was introduced. The new 645 Series Diesel engines powered it and in 1972 EMD celebrated its 50th anniversary, commemorating Electro-Motive Engineering’s 1922 date of incorporation. The next generation 50 Series locomotive was introduced in 1979. By 1983 EMD had built 50,000 locomotives and 1984 saw the introduction of the 60 Series locomotives with the 710 Series engine. It had the newly developed wheel adhesion control system. Burlington Northern placed the largest ever single order with EMD in 1993 when it ordered 350 SD70MAC units equipped with the new AC traction technology. 1997 marked EMD’s 75 years of excellence and 1998 saw the addition of the 265H engine to join the 710 Series already being built.

General Motors sold EMD in 2005 and a new spun off company Electro-Motive Diesel was incorporated.

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